Infectious disease experts say the threat of superbugs is growing. They're bacteria that have evolved so that existing medications no longer work to treat infections.
“This is made worse by the overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics and it has become a crisis here in the United States and around the world,” said Dr. Helen Boucher, Chief of Infectious Disease at Tufts Medical Center.
Boucher says antibiotic-resistant bacteria can affect treatment for patients with skin infections or cause urinary tract infections in otherwise healthy women.
Superbugs are also well-known for their presence in hospitals, causing serious problems, like pneumonia.
That's a big issue amid the pandemic, because hospitalized COVID-19 patients may face getting a secondary infection, putting them at a greater risk of dying.
Boucher says the emerging threat of superbugs has gotten to the point where physicians have had to tell some patients their infection can't be treated because there's no effective antibiotic. That could mean a denial for an organ transplant or chemotherapy.
“And that is nothing that any of us in the infectious disease business ever, ever want to face,” said Boucher. “And we know that if don't continue to advocate and act and really change this problem, that could get worse.”
Boucher is working with the Partnership to Fight Infectious Disease to advocate for change in Congress.
She says people should make sure to take any prescribed antibiotics appropriately and talk to their doctor about how much is truly necessary.